Thursday, December 30, 2010

Looking for Peter Pan

Climbing trees and traipsing through brambles was a natural part of my childhood. As an only child, I found ways to entertain myself. I spent hours outside, making believe and playing pretend. Cuts and scrapes were proudly held trophies of my games.

As I grew older, I played less with trees and more with eyeshadow and lipstick. High heels were all I climbed into. I soon forgot my love of warm summer afternoons underneath a shady tree. Once a sworn devotee of Peter Pan, vowing never to grow up, I walked away from Neverland and forgot how to fly.

At 28, I've realized that our obsession with adult things like our cars and clothes and jobs aren't evil in and of themselves, but they can't let us forget the joy of childish treasures such as walking barefoot in the grass.

Hiking isn't always easy, but one thing it does is remind me that I should stop and appreciate small things more often. I need to fill my life with more things that me bring joy and silliness.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Meltdown

Trekking the first 30 miles, we’ve met quite a few South Bounders (SOBOs) who are near to finishing their journey. Our conversations with them remind me constantly that the trail is not just one thing; it is many things to many people.

For us, this section of the trail is a beginning, but for them it’s the end. One section may be a wicked mountain ascent for me and a jolly day hike down a hill for someone else.

Around six days into our actual hiking we met a newlywed couple called Ragamuffin and Mega Mo. They had some advice to pass on to us:

  • Never decide to leave the trail in town or on a bad day
  • You WILL have bad days.
  • You will cry.
  • It will get better

These words were especially helpful to me, since three days into our hike, I had a major meltdown. One mountain after another broke my spirit and wore me down until I finally fell down in tears crying, “I can’t do this. I hate this. I want to go home.”

A lot of people don’t talk about those experiences, but many have them. Something like fifty percent of people who try to thu-hike don’t make it out of Georgia. It’s not that those fifty percent couldn’t do it and the other fifty percent could. It’s that the second fifty percent chose to keep going.

The things that kept me going were the following: Pete, my family, and you.

Pete was very mad when I said I wanted to stop. Understandably. I was leaving not just the trail, but him, too. He came with me to town and asked me to at least sleep on my decision. I agreed.

All I wanted was to go home and spend the holidays with my family. I justified that I could leave, spend the holidays at home, and come back later when it would be warmer and ‘easier’. (I knew in my heart that if I left, I’d probably never come back.) And, I knew my family would rather I keep working at this goal, despite how much they missed me.

At the time, I’d just started to write regularly and get feedback from you. I hated the idea of letting you down by giving up.

After a restless night, I realized that if I left then, I would have lost. I would have done with this trip exactly what I’ve done with the rest of my life, skated through life on the path of least resistance.

I told Pete that I would commit to getting at least to Helen, where are first food drop was supposed to be. (Only 50 miles into our 2,178 mile trip.)

We’ve hiked four days since we left that hotel, and despite cold weather with a still insufficient sleeping bag and an Achilles heel injury that has us taking yet more zero mile days, I have been happier on the trail than I could have imagined. Following that rule of not giving up on a bad day reminds you that there are more good days than bad and gives you just enough extra energy to make it to the next summit.

Then, as you keep hi

king, each summit becomes a reward in itself.

I may not end up finishing the whole trail, we’ll see. I want to, but what I know I will do is follow the guidelines. I am committed to trying to get out of Georgia. I will not stop on a bad day. I will continue to challenge myself to do even more than I ever thought possible. I will hike as long as I choose to, but if I stop

it won’t be because “I can’t”. It will be because I make a choice.

As it stands, this

trail has strengthened me already, and I see why people continue to come back over and over again.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Canis Unexpectedus or The Many Uses for a Water Bottle

Stover Creek Shelter 12/9/10

The bracing bite of winter’s darkness settled in on our first night in a shelter after an unsuccessful hour of tending a fire that preferred to smoke uncontrollably rather than give off any serviceable heat. As newbies, Pete and I tossed in our bags uncomfortably, disturbingly aware of the lack of a fourth wall and our exposure to the night.

In silence the minutes ticked away as we waited in the loft of the shelter for absent sleep to pay us a visit.

Crunch, crunch, crunch…the crisp dead leaves alerted us to the presence of someone or something else at our camp.

“What is that?”

“It sounds too big to be a raccoon.”

“I don’t think it’s a bear.”

“It sounds like a dog.”

“We’re in the middle of nowhere. It can’t be a dog.”

Thump, click, click, thump…

“It’s in the shelter now!”

Our mystery four legged companion weathered a windy and restless night with us, and as morning broke, we debated what do to.

“I really have to pee.” I whisper to Pete.

“So, pee.”

“I can’t. It’s still down there. I hate you. You can pee out the window.”

But, as we heard the animal begin to move for the day, I timidly peeked over the edge of the loft to see a brown and white speckled fox hound trot away from the shelter with a bounce to his step that seemed to taunt me and my needless fear.

“It was a dog, an freaking actual dog!”

How unusual. How unexpected.

As I climbed down the ladder to gratefully relieve myself just outside of the perimeter of our bear free campsite, I pondered some of the trail’s lessons: there is no usual, there is no expectation. Anything can and will happen. It was a dog today. For many other campers, it has been a bear snooping about the tree cables to see if he can get an easy meal. It might be a bear for us next time. All you can do is be prepared, be aware, and be willing to laugh at yourself and your fear the next morning.

That, and now I have one less Nalgene for water and one new container for those annoying night time pee breaks.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

No Frigate Like a Book

Emily Dickinson says that "there is no frigate like a book to take us lands away." She's right that cracking a a copy Rudyard Kipling's "Kim" instantly transports me to the spice filled streets of India and L.M. Montgomery's "Anne of Green Gables" makes me feel like I am eleven again and walking down the roads of Prince Edward Island with Anne Shirley. I take no greater joy on a cold rainy day than climbing into the safety of my own bed with my special friend, a new book, and snuggling down under mountains of covers with a cup of tea while devouring page after page.

The pleasure of a book is that when I get bored or tired I can just fold over the page corner and abandon the book to my nightstand for a day or a week. Similarly, when watching The Travel Channel, if something is gross or too graphic, I can change the channel. In a way, though that safety kills the soul of travel.

Travel is the insecurity of knowing that even though the muscles in my legs are begging to be done, I still have three miles to cover before dark. It's knowing that I've just started my journey and have not just days to go, but months of the same hard work to endure. It's knowing that no matter how often we may disagree or not get along, my hiking partner is my partner, and we owe something to each other.

With a book, we know at the start what sort it is: romance, comedy, adventure, or drama. With individual adventures, we never know if our story will a heroic quest with victory at the end or a tragedy holding only disappointment.

On the trail (or any adventure we take) we can say that we are ready, but we don't really know if our patience or our strength or our will power will fail us. we just don't get to know how the story ends. But, the power lies in the fact that even though we don't know what the next page will hold, we are our own authors. We are our own frigates.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The First Few Days

"Hey, Pete, fancy a walk today?" my words to Pete on the way to our last breakfast before heading out for the first day of the trip.

"This sucks, I hate this, I'm cold!" my words less than twelve hours later, setting up camp in a cold, windy valley.

A reminder that on the trail, tension and emotions often run high. We've hiked four days so far and I've had one really good day, two rough days that had great moments, and one miserable day. Ladies and gentlemen, winter hiking isn't easy. I've seriously considered going home already and I've only hiked just short of 19 miles. I have over 2,000 still to go...

Pete has been beyond patient with my slowness and my meltdowns and my bad gear choices. We're taking two and a half days off the trail to fix some gear issues and heal my blisters.

For now, we are hoping to be back on the trail later this week, though it's going to be cold. Hope you all are nice and toasty and ready for the holiday season.

For now, here are a few pics on the trail:

The first morning after camping. Rough night, beautiful day.

Ice Crystals. :)

Walking on thin ice...

Another great view in the Chattahoochee National Forest.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

On the cusp

I am less than 24 hours from starting the hike. We are on the road in South Carolina driving down from Baltimore. We've driven through a good deal of snow In the higher elevations, which makes me nervous as I was hoping to settle into hiking for a few days before we hit snow. We'll see what Georgia looks like.


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Women's Adventure Magazine

Hey all,

My first blog entry was picked up by a blog run by Women's Adventure Magazine.

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Adjustments to life

So, we have ended up staying in Baltimore for about a week longer than originally planned. Not only does this mean that we will be starting almost a month later (and colder) than our original plan, but also, I've spent a week hanging with Pete and his friends in Baltimore.

One of the things that I've encountered this week is that I am spending time socially in a much different manner than I am accustomed to. I am a huge fan of vintage fashion, and I usually doll myself up pretty well when I go out. I love makeup and pin-curls and heels and clothes. But, these are all things I've chosen (by both necessity and preference) to give up during the trek. I've committed to not plucking my eye brows or shaving during the course of the trip. None of these things are particularly unique for a hiker, but I've found the last week a bit difficult for me since I'd planned to be on the trail and not in a bar with friends.
Now, I know some of you who are reading, and I know how you are about going out in public. Imagine going out with no makeup, un-styled hair, hiking boots, and men's clothes (mine were in the wash, so I wore Pete's pants and sweater). It has been an act of humility, in some ways, to be stripped of all my traditional means of expressing personality visually. What it reminded me, though, is that personality is not found in the drape of a skirt or the cake of your eye shadow. It's found in your conversation, in you not on you.

I found myself initially more self-conscious when meeting new people, but that feeling wore off once we sat down and began talking and sharing stories. While fashion and appearance will probably always be important to me, because it's fun, it won't be able to define me in the same way that it once did.

And, this trip and this blog are a testament to the fact that in each of us, we carry different personalities that can sometimes contrast. I am currently reveling in the fact that I don't need to spend hours a week grooming and primping where I once did it just to entertain myself. So, this week, look at yourself and see what kind of dualities exist for you. What hobbies or interests do you have in your life that may on the surface appear to be contradictory in nature? How can you find a way to form them into two sides of one coin?

Just for fun, I'd like to link to some photos that reflect the theme of this post. These are done by a great company called jtMartin Photography.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

quick update

Pete and I will be leaving for the trail on Monday. We should be hiking either Monday or Tuesday! :) I looks like, for now, it might just be us at the beginning. We'll see who joins in later. So, calling all friends, you wanna have an interesting Winter or Spring break? Join us for a bit.

Talk to you all soon.


P.S. I am still working on setting up email notification when you comment. Anybody know how, comment and I'll love you forever.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

An inspirational thought

The road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began
Now far ahead the road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And wither then? I cannot say.
-J.R.R. Tolkien

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